How to Stay Awake in Class with Little Sleep: 11 Badass Life Hacks

    Updated 15 February 2022 |
    Published 25 March 2019
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Anna Targonskaya, Obstetrician and gynecologist
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    Pulling an all-nighter might seem heroic at first. But when the morning comes and the adrenaline wears off, you might feel a little unsteady on your feet. Somehow, staying awake in class seems more difficult than staying up all night.

    Why do you fall asleep in class?

    Many factors are in play when you feel like falling asleep in class. You have an internal body clock that regulates when you’re awake and when your body needs to sleep. This is your circadian rhythm.

    A compound called adenosine also plays a role. The level of adenosine rises when you’re awake and continues to increase the longer you’re awake. This increasing level of adenosine signals a shift toward sleep. Your body breaks down adenosine when you finally go to sleep.

    When you don’t get enough sleep, you accumulate a sleep debt. If your sleep debt gets too high, you might feel like falling asleep in class. 

    How to keep yourself awake in class naturally

    Here’s how you can stop your trip to dreamland and keep yourself awake in class naturally.

    1. Take a shower

    If you’ve pulled an all-nighter and are worried about staying awake in class, take a shower before you head out for the day. The secret lies in switching between cold and hot water. Try to stand under cool water for about 30 seconds. Then turn the water up as hot as you can tolerate and stand for another 30 seconds. Your capillaries will open up, and your blood flow will increase. End the cycle with icy cold water. 

    2. Use natural stimulants 

    Peppermint oil can instantly open up your airways and act as a scented wake-up call. If you are not allergic to peppermint, you can add it in your food. This may help you stay awake in class. 

    3. Sit straight

    Sitting straight plays a vital role in staying awake in class. It can also make you feel more energized throughout your day. Slouching can cause your body to take in 30 percent less oxygen than when you sit up straight.

    4. Be active 

    Being active can be helpful when you try to stay awake in class. Talking with your teacher or taking notes can increase your alertness and prevent you from falling asleep. 

    5. Drink water

    Drinking water throughout the day is a healthier option than coffee. Dehydration can lead to fatigue as it impacts the flow of oxygen to the brain. So fill up a bottle of water and stay hydrated to stay awake in class. 

    6. Breathe deeply

    Deep breathing is another way of staying awake in class as it raises your blood oxygen levels. This slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and improves circulation. 

    7. Try to move your body

    Sitting still for too long can make you feel tired. Try to move your body to feel more alert and think more clearly. If possible, take activity breaks for at least 10 minutes every few hours. You can also try stretching out your arms, torso, knees, and legs. 

    8. Chew gum 

    Studies show that keeping your mouth busy keeps your mind alert. Chewing gum can be a great way to reduce sleepiness. Why? Because it activates specific regions of the brain. So the next time you feel like falling asleep in class, grab a stick of gum. 

    9. Open the window 

    Cool, fresh air may be all you need to recharge. It can be refreshing and snap you out of your daydreaming.

    10. Splash water on your face

    If you can get away for a moment, washing your face is an effective way to stay awake in class. The human body shows a quick response when in contact with cold water. Water acts as a stimulant for the brain and skin and, as a result, can help wake you up. 

    11. Take a nap between classes

    Napping for 5 to 25 minutes between classes is a great way to recharge and avoid falling asleep in class. You’ll feel more alert and energetic throughout the school day. 

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    Things to avoid to stay awake in class

    Many people recommend energy drinks or cigarettes to stay awake in class. But these things are more harmful than helpful. 

    • Energy drinks: Energy drinks can increase your risk for heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. Try drinking more water instead of relying on caffeine and sugar.
    • Coffee: We all know that coffee can help you stay awake and alert. But consuming too much coffee can lead to an overdose of caffeine. You should limit yourself to no more than 100 mg of caffeine per day.
    • Smoking: Smoking can make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. In addition to leading to insomnia, smoking can also lead to snoring and sleep apnea.
    • Drinking alcohol: Drinking alcohol to help you stay awake in class is a bad decision. As well as disrupting your sleep cycles, alcohol can cut into your REM sleep and may cause heartburn.
    • “Stay awake” pills: These pills can cause nausea, vomiting, and difficulty sleeping.

    Why is it important to get enough sleep?

    Sleep gives our bodies the rest it needs to get ready for the next day. Our bodies need long hours of sleep to:

    • Restore and rejuvenate
    • Grow muscle
    • Repair tissue
    • Synthesize hormones

    Sleep also gives our brains a chance to sort things out. This is the time when the brain sorts and stores information, solves problems and replaces chemicals. 

    Feeling tired in class can make your work day less productive and less enjoyable. Luckily, there are things you can do to avoid falling asleep in class and feel more alert. Making certain lifestyle changes to promote sleep after school will help you stay alert in the long term.

    History of updates

    Current version (15 February 2022)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Anna Targonskaya, Obstetrician and gynecologist

    Published (25 March 2019)

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